FILM RESCUE presents THE POLITICS OF MONTAGE
Conventions: The Land Around Us, Kaye Miller and Gerald Swatez
Preceded by the “Odessa Steps” sequence from Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein
FILM RESCUE returns in March with a focus on the technique of montage and its potential to translate experience, manipulate emotion, influence perception, and reinforce or challenge ideology. THE POLITICS OF MONTAGE features Conventions: The Land Around Us, a 1970 film essay by political scientist Kaye Miller and sociologist Gerald Swatez. Conventions: The Land Around Us presents the viewer with a carefully edited collection of visual and aural fragments from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a variety of other contemporaneous events, and loose narration grounded in the social and behavioral sciences. Though informed by the political and social sciences, Miller and Swatez opt for montage over cinéma vérité in order to convey more explicitly the conflicting political and social movements of the time, highlighting the tensions felt and the violence experienced both within and outside of the convention hall. Conventions: The Land Around Us will be preceded by what is perhaps the most iconic montage sequence in film history, the “Odessa Steps” sequence from Sergei Eisenstein’s seminal Battleship Potemkin. Beyond its formal significance, this sequence also presents a foundational moment of state violence in film, setting the stage for Conventions: The Land Around Us.
Both this film and film excerpt present challenges to political and media conventions and prompt a number of questions that are not unrelated to our current political and social climate. These questions concern, among other things: what and who determines how facts and falsehoods (or “alternative facts”) are presented differently to varying segments of the public; how these facts and falsehoods are then cemented into certain historical narratives or in favor of certain political ideologies and agendas; dominant singular truths, as opposed to multiple truths or histories; the individual versus the collective; and the often perceived objective or documentary quality of film and photography as media (both in their early histories and as they are used and disseminated widely today, especially in the news and by politicians). Beyond questions of control over initial production of film and the film apparatus, these two films present an opportunity to further question control as it occurs at the editing bay and also as it occurs at interpersonal, national, and international levels of social, political, and economic order. The presentation of information and editing are never neutral acts; the technique of montage at least brings this some visibility.
The “Odessa Steps” sequence from Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Union, b/w, silent, 1925, 12 minutes
Conventions: The Land Around Us, Kaye Miller and Gerald Swatez, USA, b/w, sound, 1970, 68 minutes
Programmed by Chloe Lundgren